Battle Songs (Paperback)
An early novel from the masterful Drndic, Battle Songs is an intimate, ferocious account of her years spent as a refugee in Canada during the Yugoslav Wars
In the 1990s, the unnamed narrator of Battle Songs leaves Yugoslavia with her daughter Sara to Toronto to start a new life. They, along with other refugees, encounter a new country but not a new home. Book editors sell hotdogs, mathematicians struggle to get by on social security, violinists hawk cheap goods on the street. Years after arriving in Canada, when she thinks no one can hear her, Sara still sings in the shower: What can we do to make things better, what can we do to make things better, la-la-la-la.
In true Drndic style, the novel has no one time or place. It is interspersed with stories from the Yugoslav Wars, from Rijeka to Zagreb to Sarajevo—with, as always, the long shadow of the Second World War looming overhead. Her singular layering of details—from lung damage to silk scarves to the family budget to old romances—offers an almost unbearable closeness to the characters and their moment in history. “Wry and kindly, funny, angry, informed and intent on the truth, no voice is quite as blisteringly beautiful as that of Drndic” (Financial Times).
About the Author
Daša Drndic (1946-2018) wrote Trieste—"splendid, absorbing" (The New York Times)—shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize; Belladonna—"one of the strangest and strongest books" (TLS)— winner of the 2018 Warwick Prize; and EEG—"a masterpiece" (Joshua Cohen). She also wrote plays, criticism, radio plays, and documentaries.
Celia Hawkesworth was Senior Lecturer in Serbian and Croatian at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College, London until her retirement. She has published numerous articles and several books on Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian literature, including a study Ivo Andric: Bridge between East and West, and Voices in the Shadows: Women and Verbal Art in Serbia and Bosnia. She has also published numerous translations, including several works by Ivo Andric and Dubravka Ugresic.
Her writing glows with an incendiary bleakness worthy of Beckett.
— Boyd Tonkin - The Arts Desk
Drndic interweaves fiction, reality, history, and memory to terrific effect, producing unforgettable meditations on love and loss, the insanity of war and the legacy of human cruelty.
— Lucy Popescu - The White Review
Drndic’s formidable intelligence and Homeric intention cannot help but thrill and exalt.
— Dustin Illingworth - The Paris Review
Battle Songs is bleak but not hopeless, and Drndic’s inventive style carries the reader along without allowing the disillusionment of the book to become disillusionment with the experience of reading it. Those new to Drndic will find themselves impatient to dig deeper into her writing. Fans of her previously Englished books may come away with a better idea of her artistic progression. Anyone interested in Eastern European history or the continuing playfulness of the novelistic form would do well to read Battle Songs.
— Alex Tedesco - Blathering Struldbrugs
Drndic cannot be dispassionate. Her work throbs like a hurt human heart.
— Words Without Borders